I love to people watch; it helps me create my characters.
I don’t look for the pretty and well groomed, quite the opposite. I observe the homeless, the ordinary, everyday person.
I look at different races, the very young to the very old. I look at the lines in their faces and wonder what caused them. If they laugh, I listen to the sound of it. Some people have a robust laugh straight from the gut, while some giggle.
Clothes are another observation; are they pressed and neat or are they wrinkled, dirty, smelly? Why are they dressed this way? What colors do they wear; are they mismatched? Are they dressed appropriately for the weather?
People watching can be done anywhere and ideas are endless for how you would use them to create characters for your book. I always keep a pen and pad with me to make notes.
I like to go to mom and pop restaurants and listen to the conversations the customers may have. There is one place in a plaza I shop at sometimes and the same people gather there on a regular basis; they all sit together in a group and catch up on their news. They are the local retirees, old guys in scruffy jeans, baseball caps or stretched-out toques and lumberjack button-downs.
The odor of cigarette smoke follows them when they enter the establishment where they order the same thing, the special of the day. The server smiles and laughs with her regulars as she takes their orders then fills their mugs with coffee.
They share a newspaper that was snagged from a deserted table; someone emits a smoker’s cough as they laugh.
Though mostly men, someone’s wife joins them on occasion. She has dried out, bleached blonde hair that does not suit her wrinkles and mini-jowls. Her lipstick is smeared on rather than applied and she wears jeans with a tee-shirt that doesn’t quite fit. What would this description tell you about her?
How do I know all of this? I don’t just sit and stare; I make a trip to the washroom so I can pass by their table, take a closer look, listen to their conversation and use my other senses to capture what I need to make it all work for me.
I’ve been to upscale restaurants where the atmosphere is just as stiff as the clientele; all of this is fodder for my books.
Use public transit, even if you drive. Go to the movies, parks, malls (one of my favorite places to do this). Watch the interaction between them and think about how your characters would interact in a similar scenario.
I hope this post helps you hone your character creation skills.
Until next time…